February 24, 2015

CONTACT Micah Kubic Executive Director, ACLU-Kansas [email protected] 816-994-3316

Immigrant college students call on lawmakers to maintain access to education

TOPEKA, KANSASThe Kansas Stronger Together Coalition joined immigrant college students and civic leaders across the state of Kansas today to ask that lawmakers uphold the Kansas state law that gives immigrant students a greater opportunity to obtain higher-education.

They attended the hearing held by The Kansas House Committee on Education at 1 p.m. in Topeka, Kansas to ask for the rejection of House Bill 2139, which would repeal in-state tuition for more than 651 immigrant students in the state of Kansas this year.

Among those attending was Juan Diaz, an immigrant student from Mexico who came to Kansas 10 years ago and graduated from Salina South High School in 2013.

“I knew all along that my family would never be able to afford my education, so I worked hard to earn athletic and academic scholarships,” said Juan. “And my college experience has changed my life. I am studying to receive my business degree and professional pilot license. I’ve had the opportunity meet new people from different states and counties, and also some immigrant students that enroll under the instate tuition law. To us, the instate tuition law shows that our state legislators believe that our dreams also matter.”

Even with private scholarships, the finances needed to pay for instate tuition is very burdensome for immigrant students who cannot access federal aid.

 “These students are not eligible for any federal aid or federal scholarships,” said Fred Logan, a representative from the Kansas Board of Regents. “They are great Kansans who already struggle to pay for instate tuition. But they do it anyway based on their own guts – their own motivation.”

Currently, in order to be eligible to pay instate tuition at a state school, all undocumented students must attend a Kansas high school for at least three years, graduate or obtain a GED, and sign an affidavit declaring that they will seek to adjust their immigration status as soon as is available.

“The wise words of one of your peers at the House several years ago sums it up for me: ‘These are the children that the ways of the world brought to us and they are now ours,’” said Sister Therese Bangert, representative of The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, in her testimony. “Thank you and you have my prayers as you continue your work to develop education policy that is good for all the children in Kansas.”